You have been with AXA Partners Spain for many years. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in that time?
One of the major changes has been the acceleration of digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI), which has developed exponentially in the past years I have been with AXA Partners. Not only has it helped to improve processes by making them more efficient but, above all, it has improved the customer experience, making communications and interactions with the company a lot easier.
This brings me to the second major change: placing the customer at the heart of the business. Although this is a trend that we have long championed, in recent years there has been a general change of mindset in all companies, making the customer experience the cornerstone of added value.
And, of course, the pandemic, which has changed the insurance sector and the nature of its activities. It has made people more aware of the risks and, therefore, of insurance. We have seen this, for example, in the trend towards purchasing travel insurance, which is now more mature than before the pandemic. It has also accelerated internal changes within companies in relation, for example, to employee welfare.
What are the biggest challenges or successes you’ve encountered in your role?
Both the challenges and the successes are linked to the three main changes cited in the previous question: customer centricity, digitisation and AI, and the pandemic.
We have done a great job of placing the customer at the heart of all our activity, both through technological investments that support this change, and by developing products to become more closely adapted to what consumers are looking for.
This has been accompanied by an in-depth digital transformation, which has considerably changed the overall assistance journey for our clients, making it more personalised and efficient.
Another challenge we faced is related to our operational resilience during the pandemic. As an assistance company, operational resilience is of utmost importance and being able to rapidly deploy our workforce in a telework model was clearly an important success.
How did AXA Partners Spain adjust during the pandemic, and are there any permanent changes you have incorporated into the business?
As I have pointed out, one of these is undoubtedly teleworking. In the new normal, we adapted the teleworking model that the pandemic forced us to implement so that our employees could continue leveraging its benefits. And we now have a hybrid model, as there is a greater awareness of the work-life balance this model generates.
Customers also saw a transformation due to the pandemic. They are now much more knowledgeable of the insurance products they buy and of their rights. Customers expect to have clear and transparent information on the insurance product they are acquiring and its concrete coverage.
How is AXA Partners Spain using new technology to better serve its customers around the world?
As an assistance company, operational resilience is of utmost importance and being able to rapidly deploy our workforce in a telework model was clearly an important success
We are making significant investments in terms of digital interactions with customers. If someone uses WhatsApp on an everyday basis, they also want to be able to do so with their insurer or assistance provider. We have therefore integrated new communication channels, so that our clients can activate them in the way that is most convenient for them at any given time.
We have seen that people often want to interact digitally, yet other times they prefer to talk on the phone with another person. We are in a hybrid world in which we need to find the combination between personalised assistance, where the customer needs to feel safe talking directly to one of our agents, and other times when they feel comfortable interacting digitally. This means providing the insured with as much assistance as they require to ensure they feel supported throughout the process.
Do you think the international insurance industry can further adapt in the future to better serve its customers? If so, how?
Yes, there is great potential to continue providing an excellent service to customers, placing them at the heart of our business. Leveraging AI, we will be able to make predictions that will inevitably lead to an improved customer experience. The future involves making the most of the anonymised data we have in order to improve the products and services we can offer to our customers.
Mental health policies are becoming more important for customers. How is AXA responding?
The emotional stability of people and their mental health has for years been a focus of analysis in the AXA Group. A few months ago, the third report on emotional wellbeing produced by the group was published, with the participation of 16 countries and more than 16,000 people surveyed. This resulted in figures that alerted us to the health of the Spanish people: less than half of those surveyed say they are happy, and 40 per cent admit to feeling emotionally unhappy or very unhappy.
In response to this clear need for support for the insured in the field of mental health, AXA Partners includes psychological assistance within its range of services. We have an in-person or online assistance network to reinforce our valuable offering for our B2B customers.
AXA Partners Spain launched a digital platform for the wellbeing of its staff. Why is this so important to the business?
Employee wellbeing is not only important for AXA Partners in Spain but for the entire AXA Group.
Locally, our initiatives are inspired by a corporate programme called ‘We Care’, which aims to provide all employees with the time, support and resources needed to make personal and professional decisions with confidence. This helps create an inclusive and caring workplace culture, and supports the wellbeing of our employees throughout their careers.
Among these initiatives, health-related topics are highly valued by teams. Our ‘Healthy You’ programme offers employees a second-opinion medical service for serious illnesses, psychological assistance, teleconsultation services, medical examinations, and financial coverage in case of cancer, etc.
Leveraging AI, we will be able to make predictions that will inevitably lead to an improved customer experience
What makes working in your region specifically challenging and how do you overcome such challenges?
AXA Partners in Spain is one of the most important operational hubs, as it manages a large part of the travel activity worldwide. This also implies a great deal of coordination with other regions. We are not only subject to varying volumes through the Spanish business alone but also at a pan-European level. We must manage the activity in line with the demands of the regulators of different countries, which is an additional element to take into consideration.
We must offer high-quality management for a wide range of cases – from the most complex repatriations to simpler lost baggage claims. For this we rely on the expertise of our teams and closely collaborate with our other entities at an international level, adapting our service to the needs of the insured and to the regulations of each country. We rely on central functions such as our Acute Care Centre (ACC) located in Paris that helps us with coordinating very complex medical cases.
All this enables us to benefit from cross-cutting knowledge and a high level of expertise to manage all types of cases, even the most complicated ones.
What does the future of the insurance industry in Spain look like?
I believe the insurance industry, like many others, will feel the impact of technological changes and disruptions and of the customer transformation itself.
The technological evolution will improve the efficiency of our processes, forecasts and trends, as well as the contact with customers. Moreover, these customers are increasingly better informed about the services they contract and expect them to be better and more personalised. More particularly, the insurance and travel assistance sector will be subject to changing travel habits and trends.
I see an optimistic future where there will undoubtedly be new players, but where AXA Partners will be able to adapt and help in building the future of the insurance industry.